If you’ve been watching the news recently, you might have heard about the Net Neutrality vote in the US.   The US government has voted to repeal it, but what does it actually mean?

Internet connectivity is now considered a necessary utility along with power, water etc.   This might seem extreme, but the world is increasingly becoming dependent on Internet connectivity.   These days you can shop online, call people, watch TV, do your banking and lots more via the Internet.   The world is changing and we’re becoming reliant on the Internet to work smoothly and reliably.

Net Neutrality was established by the Obama government and put in place laws to dictate how ISPs (Internet Service Providers) can offer their service.   ISPs are the companies who run the Internet – connecting everyone together and making sure that everything works smoothly without getting congested.

For example, it’s down to the ISPs to make sure that when you stream a movie on Netflix, the connection between you and Netflix has enough “bandwidth” to play the movie without buffering.     Bandwidth is the measure of how much information can be transmitted per second, and your home connection is usually between around 1Mb/s and 10Mb/s.   However, in cities, fibre is now becoming more prevalent and these connections can be up to 100Mb/s.   This is putting extra pressure on ISPs to improve what’s going on behind the scenes to keep up with this demand.

This leaves two options for ISPs.   They can invest in and improve the infrastructure of the Internet – known as the backbone, or they can limit the bandwidth.    ISPs supply Internet not just to home users, but also to companies such as Netflix, Amazon and every business connected to the Internet.    This dependency on Internet service has businesses, who’s income rely on it, very worried.   After all, where would Netflix be without the Internet?

So, Net Neutrality was established to ensure that fair service would be provided to all customers – essentially as a necessary utility service.   This allows all businesses to compete on a level playground with the assumption that necessary bandwidth could be provided when needed.

Take for example the scenario where an ISP decides to provide their own streaming service. They could provide more bandwidth to customers of their own service than to customers of Netflix.   This could unfairly sway customers to switch from Netflix to the new service.   No longer can business fairly compete when they have no control over how “their” customers will be able to access their services.

Well, the rules that were put in place to protect Net Neutrality have just been reversed which means that this scenario is now possible, which is bad news for everyone.

What happens next is down to the ISPs.   You probably won’t see any changes immediately.  Perhaps price increases for Netflix as the ISPs demand they pay more to provide the service.    Maybe you’ll have to pay your ISP a monthly fee to be able to stream movies (on top of the fee you pay Netflix).   Nobody knows, but the ISPs have won this battle and it’s now up to them to decide how the Internet is structured and how bandwidth is allocated.

There’s still a fight going on to oppose this change, but it may take another change in government before it happens.

Its times like this we really begin to realise just how much the world relies on the Internet.   Hopefully we’ll eventually see the return of Net Neutrality and open competition, but until then it’ll be interesting to see how things evolve.

Until next time – keep streaming (if you can!).